To increase student engagement, some housing departments are scoring big by establishing partnerships with their campus’s intramural programs. One such campus is the University of Missouri-Columbia. Recognizing that participating in club sports contributes to a student’s sense of belonging, social support, and identity-building, staff have created a streamlined process which creates opportunities for students to engage in intramural sports with their peers while removing hurdles to their participation.
One of the first barriers to Mizzou students participating in intramural sports was the associated fee charged to students. To avoid this, a separate intramural league specifically for residential students was created. In this league, compared to other open leagues, the student participation fee is covered by a sponsorship paid by the housing department. The housing office also created a new collateral staff assignment, housing intramural league coordinator, to manage the process and collaborate with the rec sports coordinator counterpart.
For the 2018-19 academic year, the first time this opportunity was available, nearly 600 students, approximately 10% of the on-campus population, participated in the Housing Intramural Sports League. The winning streak continued the following year, with more than 200 individuals requesting sponsorship in the first semester for sports like sand volleyball and flag football.
Other campuses offer variations on such a partnership. For example, at the University of Iowa in Iowa City the housing department has partnered with the recreation sports department to provide late-night, alcohol-free programming. One night a month, the recreation center stays open late for basketball games, swimming, and other events, attracting more than 500 students each month.
The cost to participate at Mizzou can range from $20 to $150 depending on the sport. Through its first three semesters, housing has spent approximately $10,000 in participation scholarships. Kevin Raher, the rec sports coordinator, says the increase seen in student engagement and participation is more than worth the cost, noting that it is fortunate that res life and rec sports “could make it possible for all students to participate in recreational sports.” Participation in the co-rec leagues has become a popular talking point for resident assistants when discussing with students ways to become more involved within the university or the hall. Teams that formed in the residence halls have continued to compete together even after students have moved out of campus housing. And if a student’s participation in a housing-sponsored team in any way helps a student choose to live on campus the following year, it’s all the better. This unique collaboration allows students to find a friend group and community in a way they previously may not have been able to. A win-win situation.
— Thomas A. Joseph